Environment ministers from developed and developing countries said Friday that they should make more efforts to reduce and recycle waste to conserve natural resources and tackle environmental pollution.
At a two-day international conference on recycling that opened in Tokyo the same day, 165 ministers and officials from 20 countries and international organizations discussed how to promote the “three Rs” — reduction, reuse and recycling — to improve economic development and environmental protection at both local and global levels.
The conference was organized based on Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s proposal at the Group of Eight Summit, held in the United States last June at Sea Island, Georgia.
Environment Minister Yuriko Koike stressed the need to review economic activities characterized by mass production and mass consumption.
“Increases in wasted resources and environmental pollution have emerged” in the 20th century, Koike said in the opening address of the Ministerial Conference on the 3R Initiative. “In order to address this, our current lifestyles and economic activities should be reviewed at a fundamental level.”
In countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, waste rose by about 40 percent between 1980 and 1997. The OECD has been forecasting that waste will rise another 43 percent from 1997 to 2020.
While the developed countries have been exporting tons of waste — including increasing amounts of such electronics as cell phones and computers — to developing countries for recycling, participants voiced concerns about environmental pollution that could be caused by the hazardous materials they contain.
Waste from electronic goods is often mixed and dumped in municipal landfills without proper treatment, exposing people to health risks, according to Sachiko Kuwabara, executive secretary of the secretariat of the Basel Convention, which issues rules on the import and export of hazardous waste.
To solve the problem, countries should adopt policies to ensure that municipal and industrial waste is segregated and treated properly, Kuwabara said.
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